Saturday. 28/9/2019

Monocle
Weekend Edition

OPINION / ANDREW TUCK

Revel in retail

On Thursday lunchtime a small group of Monocle staffers set out from Midori House with a detectable urgency to their stride. The posse included Tom, our managing editor; Nolan, our Design editor; Helena, who runs film; and Bill from the web team (who sends you this newsletter).

They were off on what has become a biannual fashion pilgrimage. Their destination: Uniqlo. Their target: the drop of the Uniqlo U collection, a limited-edition line that’s produced each season by the company’s artistic director Christophe Lemaire and his Paris-based team. According to Uniqlo he reimagines “everyday clothing using innovative materials and contemporary shapes”.

And this isn’t the first time that our well-dressed team members have made the dash. Like migratory ducks, as each fashion season flips something triggers in their brains and they are off in search of big Ts in spring and puffed-up jackets come autumn.

Last week in New York I walked past an outpost of the skate label Ripndip, which was going full out selling a collection in collaboration with a brand called Teddy Fresh – don’t worry, I was clueless too. Ripndip is based in LA and, I have now learnt, is a playful take on street style with lots of kitten and teddy-bear imagery in play. How about some kitten-shaped slippers or both a teddy and kitty peeping out from a T-shirt pocket? No? Well, I have placed my order for the doormat with the kitten giving a finger and the simple advice, “Go Away”.

But this is the interesting bit: young shoppers waiting in line. Hundreds of them. From 20-year-olds holding their skateboards to 10-year-olds holding the hands of parents clearly wondering why they couldn’t have just gone to The Gap. And around the corner there was also a bouncer-and-queue situation in play at the Adidas store.

The narrative around physical retail has become one of hand-wringing misery. And there’s no doubt that mall operators and the owners of slow-to-manoeuvre high-street chains are looking sweaty-browed. But it’s not a uniform story of decline and again and again what surprises you is how upstart brands such as a Ripndip can turn retail into an experience that generates such a buzz – and clearly a lot of revenue.

And no it’s not just a street thing. Sagra Maceira de Rosen is a part of the Monocle family – she’s helped us in numerous ways, was an on-stage Spanish commentator for our Madrid conference and talks about the luxury industry on M24 too. Over lunch the other day we discussed the world of retail and she told me about one of her favourite shops in London. Koibird sells women’s clothes and accessories linked with one travel destination from where it sources unique pieces. The shop regularly packs up while a radical redecoration takes place ahead of new arrivals. It breaks all the rules and has created excitement, made clothing desirable and got people heading down as soon as it reopens.

These are just a few snapshots of success but the fact that they are happening at every level of fashion retail makes you think that all is far from lost for bricks and mortar – if you are an innovator.

Back at Midori House on Thursday afternoon, there were a lot of Uniqlo shopping bags. Tom had gone for a “grown-up coat” which is yet to debut. Nolan was already rocking his new black-corduroy jacket and looking rather smug about his new look. Meanwhile Bill had chosen a beige fleece number – not, he claimed, because it was back in vogue as a fabric but because he thought it would make him look like the dog he is planning to get. Fashion retail moves in mysterious ways and some of our team in even more wondrous ones.

How we live / Companies that eat together

Break bread

It’s evening in the outlying 15th district of the Austrian capital and as the low autumn sun dips behind the horizon the barbecue is beginning to spit. We’re standing in a manicured roof garden above the offices of Bureau F, an Austrian design firm of just three people who have made their end-of-day parties a highlight of the working week. “Eating together is great for bonding,” says co-founder Philipp Stürzenbecher, as he turns a sausage on the grill.

Too often working lunches can mean sad sandwiches or crumbs in the keyboard but a certain genre of company is realising the benefits of breaking bread together and forging relationships with clients while they’re at it. “We invite every prospective client to the terrace for a coffee and, in the evenings, we like to kick back with a bottle of wine,” says Stürzenbecher with a grin. For a sneak peek into how seven companies see the dividends of eating together, look out for our report in our new magazine The Entrepreneurs.

House news / Chengdu

The big day

Team Monocle is heading to China – to Chengdu to be precise. We are going for the inaugural chapter of The Monocle Cities Series of conferences: one-day summits that will look at everything from retail to hospitality, urbanism to mobility and how they impact mayors, developers, investors and citizens. We would love to have your company. To find out more, click here.

THE FASTER LANE / Tyler Brûlé

Whole new world

It’s that time of year – again. Leaves start to dry and change to varying shades of rust and orange; woolly cardigans are pulled off the top shelf; chunky Paraboots move to the front of the closet; pinot noir replaces pinot bianco at dinner; and Monocle readers start to think of Japan. The requests pop up with daily frequency in key editors’ inboxes. While we’re not going to change our ways when it comes to disclosing our favourite bars and restaurants (see this column two weeks ago), we are happy to offer specially tailored tours and even respond to specific briefs when it comes to travel to Japan and elsewhere.

A couple of Saturdays ago a leading Swiss restaurant-and-bar operator threw me a challenge while having drinks at one of his riverside establishments. “Can you show me what’s happening with bars in Tokyo?” he asked.

“I can provide you with a list of some places I think you need to see,” I suggested.

“No, no. I don’t want your list, I want you to take me,” he said. “Can we do a few days? Should we just do Tokyo?”

As I needed time to absorb this offer and also think through the logistics and how such a tour might unfold, I diverted the conversation to another topic that I thought might interest him – but he wasn’t having any of it: “Should I take my wife?” he asked.

“That’s really your call. It will be a lot of late nights with much potential for trouble, so you need to figure out how to navigate that one sir,” I said.

“Maybe I’ll take the kids then. Or we can just get a babysitter and my wife comes with me,” he reasoned. “Do you think we can cover enough ground over three or four nights?”

“Not a problem. So long as you’re ready to sleep in late and start your day late afternoon, I think you can be very productive,” I advised.

It was now clear that what was a funny idea just five minutes earlier was already taking shape in his head. While turning to fill my glass, he was already consulting his phone and looking at dates. He offered late November but that didn’t work. He came back with the first week of December but I said that conflicted with Monocle’s Christmas markets in Zürich and London (more on these soon by the way). After a bit more scrolling, a text to his wife and I believe a scan of his Miles & More app, we landed on mid-October and shook on it.

“I’m booking this now, so we’re doing this. OK?” he said, searching for further confirmation.

“Deal.”

I left the bar and started to think about whether this was the start of a new business extension or simply a bad idea. Was this going to work? Did I need to rope colleagues Jun and Hannah in on this for logistics support? And what about a night-time crew? Did I need to start lining up various personalities and creatures of the night to ensure he’d see the best of Tokyo? On the tram I jotted down a few ideas about setting the right tone and also pacing the three to four nights. Start big and then go easy – and then end even bigger? Or start slow and wrap the whole thing in STP (straight-to-plane) territory?

By the time I reached my next venue, I received an email from him confirming his wife was on board, tickets were booked via Vienna and it was going to be a five-night affair. He asked if I could sort out the hotel and said the kids were staying at home so I was off the hook when it came to child care.

In this rapidly evolving world of media, where brands like ours always need to swerve and flex, this could open up a whole new world of highly personal and highly profitable tours. Come back to this very same place in four weeks and I’ll let you know how it all went. More soon.

THE INTERROGATOR / EDITION 31

Sarah McNally

Sarah McNally opened her first McNally Jackson bookshop on Prince Street in Manhattan 15 years ago. It’s since been joined by shops in Williamsburg, LaGuardia Airport, inside The Shed at Hudson Yards and, as of last month, in the city’s burgeoning Seaport District. In the latest instalment of our series dedicated to uncovering our interviewees’ media habits, McNally tells us about the dangers of coffee and her appreciation for Tom Waits.

What news source do you wake up to? I don’t wake up to the news. If I pick up my phone too soon I lose whatever sleepy momentum I have and use it as an excuse to prolong feeling half-awake. On the weekends, I read the physical paper, mid-morning or early afternoon.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? I drink green tea only. I like coffee far too much. If I have one cup, then I’ll have four. If I let myself indulge to the extent of my desire I would end up addicted to speed.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I listen to music unless I’m thinking so much that the rhythm of it clashes with my intermittent stutters of thought. Lately I’ve been listening to Tom Waits: what spirit he has! I feel honoured that he and I are of the same species.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk?The New York Times comes to my door on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I can’t imagine the weekend without the paper. I feel claustrophobic receiving the world only through little screens. Sometimes I wish I could work on, and from, vast canvases. I would like to work on a cinema-sized computer screen and make my to-do lists on banquet-table-sized pads of paper. The weekend Times is expansive. I could paper a gymnasium with it every week.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? I subscribe to three: The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and The London Review of Books. I read The Atlantic and Harper’s so often that I should subscribe.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? I often go around the corner to Three Lives, which is ridiculous because I spend every workday in my own bookshops. I feel good surrounded by books, to me they are like the medieval concept of familiars.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Sofa, sadly. My son is a homebody. I often try to drag him out to the cinema as we live near some of the best in the world. I tell him that he might as well live in Podunkville, not Greenwich Village.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? I do not. I would if Dave Chappelle had a nightly news show but I can’t think of anyone else who would induce me to do so.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? Books. The entire structure of my consumption of arts and culture is books. Everything else is just decoration.

CULTURE / WATCH, READ, LISTEN

Hot mess

‘The Politician’, Netflix. Possibly the most hyped show on Sunset Strip’s billboards right now, The Politician is screenwriter Ryan Murphy’s debut for Netflix. The show takes us on a bumpy ride with Payton Hobart, from his running for school president all the way through to every other election in his career. Many have called the series chaotic – but how could it be any different? Politics, as we all know, gets messy.

‘Before or After, at the Same Time: Rome, Milan and Fabio Mauri, 1948–1968’. Published by Hauser & Wirth to coincide with the gallery’s presentation at London’s Frieze Masters, Before or After, at the Same Time explores postwar Italian art through the lens of 20th-century artists and thinkers. Edited by Ben Eastham, the striking book tells the tale of two Italian cities and the artistic practices that emerged from them after the fall of fascism.

‘Losing, Linda’, Sui Zhen. Music about technology and artificial intelligence can be beautiful – and Sui Zhen is proof. The Melbourne-based artist and singer has created an album that’s experimental but manages to stay captivating and soulful: there’s a healthy helping of 1980s swagger, beats, brass and bossa nova here.

OUTPOST NEWS / BRUNY ISLAND

Life’s a beach

Bruny Island is made up of two landmasses connected by a sandy isthmus off the south coast of Tasmania. The island’s a popular spot for nearby foodies – oyster farms and fruit fields feature bistros peddling their produce – and the full-time residents there have built up a tight-knit community. The Bruny News makes sure their voices are heard. Originally published in 1980 as a two-page photocopied address to the local government, today the paper is sold in all self-respecting Bruny Island newsstands for AU$2.50 (€1.5), with volunteer Reg Davis at the helm. Though he’s only been in the role for 18 months (his predecessor enjoyed a decade as editor), Davis runs the paper entirely on his own. He fills us in on the issues adrift on the Tasman Sea.

What’s the big story this month? Bruny Island has been enjoying a big increase in tourism lately but the government hasn’t been keeping up with its spending. We get 100,000 people passing through the island during the summer but it’s not until much later that roads are repaired and our facilities fixed. We’ve been pressuring officials to sort things out.

What’s your favourite image? Not too long ago, while my wife and I were sitting on the porch, I was writing up the Bruny News and she caught an amazing picture of the 16-metre close-rigged topsail cutter Storm Bay that was sailing on an 80km/h gutter of wind straight into a storm. We actually found the man who sailed it later on; he told us the yacht was built in Tasmania in the 1930s.

Your favourite headline? “What’s happening to our beaches?” There have been a lot of unusual high tides recently on Bruny Island, the kind we’ve never really seen before. It’s hard to know whether it’s just part of normal cyclic events or whether it’s related to climate change. For us, Adventure Bay – where James Cook once stopped on his travels – will be the first to go.

What’s your down-page treat? The Bruny Island Community Association got some money together to send our primary school kids to Canberra on a school trip. There’s a great picture of them all in front of Parliament House with a sign saying, “Thank you Bruny Island community for our school trip”.

What’s the next big event? That’s the Bruny Island Celebration, I’ve been publicising it for months. We have a lot of voluntary committees on the island: the library, the ambulance service and the health committee, and the art community. It’s a chance for them to share what they all really do for one another and celebrate what’s great about Bruny Island.

WEEKEND PLANS? / TOKYO

Sing for your supper

Planning a holiday in Tokyo? If you fancy something a bit different, check out Trunk House. Here’s a sneak peek from our report in the current October issue. Situated in Kagurazaka neighbourhood, famous for its Kyoto-like picturesque alleyways and geisha culture, the two-storey holiday rental is a unique addition to the capital’s hospitality scene.

Open since August, the renovated 70-year-old wooden structure, formerly a restaurant-cum-geisha house, now sleeps up to four guests with around-the-clock service from a team of butlers. Commission Trunk’s private chefs to help give you a taste of the best Tokyo has to offer (and invite friends – there are eight chairs at the table), then put your feet up in the cosy hinoki bath. There’s even a soundproofed karaoke den if you don’t want to call it a night.

MODERN ETIQUETTE / EDITION 25

How do I tell someone I don't like their haircut?

Take it from me, you don’t. If you think that your friend’s latest tonsure has left them looking like a preened poodle or a Ragdoll cat (not you, Mr Tiddly) then try to be generous. It might take some lexical dexterity to help skirt the issue so you’ll need to cultivate a few useful get-out-of-hot-water adjectives to keep your compliments non-committal. “Short hair really suits you,” you might say, in the knowledge that an extra half-inch off the mullet could have saved the look altogether. “Very modern,” you could exclaim, before asking if their shirt is new too. Just don’t dwell on it, the dodgy do will grow out but your friends might never forgive you; if they’re asking for your opinion the chances are they know it’s a bad cut.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tsinandali tunes

Monocle Films travels to Georgia to bear witness to the first edition of a festival bringing together musicians from the Caucasus to foster a conversation about a shared future of this region.

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